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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Punisher Season Zero

Published March 28, 2016 in Comic Books , Television - 0 Comments
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Daredevil-Season-2-Trio-PosterThis weekend I finally finished Punisher Season Zero Daredevil Season Two. It’s a strong follow up to season one, which I’ve previously counted as one of the best comicbook adaptations of all time. I’ve never been a particularly big Daredevil fan, but this incarnation continues to really deliver the goods.

The strongest feature of season two is also the strongest feature of season one. Once again the casting is top notch. Season one brought us Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk, two of the best casting choices of this decade. Season two brings us the next amazing casting choice: Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle.

As you might have figured out from my introduction, The Punisher plays such a huge role in this season that it could almost be viewed as the first season of his own show. This is a wonderful thing. In fact, it’s one of the strongest parts of this season. Unlike Daredevil, I was a massive Punisher fan in my high school years. For the first time, a live action really does the character justice.

Unfortunately the season also has some weaknesses. The two major plot threads – the Punisher thread and the Elektra thread – don’t weave together very well. It’s almost like the show is just telling two completely separate stories this season – except that they kind of sort of meet at the very end when the Punisher shows up to just barely help out Daredevil in the final showdown.

Furthermore, the show sets Matt Murdock into relationship turmoil, showcasing his relationship with Elektra while also trying to showcase a relationship with Karen Page. Both stories are strong. But the show kind of jumps from one relationship to another without much coherency. First he’s with Page. Then Elektra shows up, and Page kind of disappears off his radar sense – but he doesn’t actually want a relationship with her (for good reason: she’s damaged goods). Then, almost inexplicably, he seems to forget all about how he left things with Page and he wants to run away with Elektra. Then when that doesn’t work out, he turns around on a dime and wants to be with Page again.

This does not make Matt Murdoch very sympathetic.

In fact, that’s probably the single biggest weakness of the series. Daredevil himself simply doesn’t feel like the main character here. Most of the season involves stuff happening around him or stuff happening to him, but not much of him actually doing things.

The other unfortunate weakness: seeing the Punisher realized this well makes me wonder if I’d actually like a true, straight-up Punisher show. His stuff is intense, and pretty dark. I’m not sure I would have actually liked it very much, though, without the trappings of a lighter character to wrap it in. And given that Daredevil isn’t particularly light, that says something.

All in all, though, it was a strong season. I’d give it four out of five stars and I could easily sit through it again.

Impossible Delegate Math

Published March 23, 2016 in Politics - 0 Comments
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The rage these days is to analyze Donald Trump’s path to the 1237 delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination. In my not so humble opinion, he still has a strong (though not quite inevitable) path. But rather than go into too much detail, I’ll leave it to Vox Day. His strategic mind has already broken it down far more succinctly than I could.

You may recall I originally stated this: If Trump wins Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California, plus one state from the following list (Arizona, Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin), he wins the nomination. Period. Nothing else matters.

Since then, he has won Florida, Missouri and Arizona, but lost Ohio. So, all he needs now, in practical terms, is Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California. Those are the three vital states, which the latest, but mostly outdated, polls currently show:

  • Pennsylvania: Trump +17
  • New Jersey: Trump +27
  • California: Trump +16

Note for those who haven’t been following Vox Day’s thoughts on this: he also previously stated that Missouri would be almost as good for Trump as Ohio, which is indeed mathematically correct. But the short version is, Trump’s math looks good.

His rivals, on the other hand, are facing impossible delegate math.

Let’s take a look at the current delegate counts first, here handily provided by Google.

GOPDelegates_3_23_2016

John Kasich’s impossible delegate math has been clear for a while now. As of Monday he needed 112% of the remaining delegates to win. Last night didn’t help him. He needs 1094 delegates. Only 944 remain. Obviously he won’t get 116% of the remaining delegates.

But what many don’t realize is that Ted Cruz’s position isn’t much better. His 465 delegates mean that he needs 772 delegates to clinch the nomination – or a whopping 82% of the remaining delegates. Trump’s home state of New York has 95 delegates, and next door New Jersey has 51. Current polls show him looking at yuuuuge wins in both places, and that takes nearly 16% of the remaining delegates off the table. Cruz would have to win 97% of the other delegates to clinch the nomination. Given that several states left are nearly proportional, including California (with it’s massive 172 delegates), that simply isn’t going to happen.

It gets worse for Cruz. The voting slows down massively from here on out. The next primary isn’t for another two weeks – April 5th in Wisconsin. Polls currently show Trump up by 10 in this winner take all state with 42 delegates. After that it’s another two weeks before Trump’s home state of New York votes with its 95 delegates. It’s not quite winner take all, but expect Trump to come home with a vast majority of the delegates here – perhaps all of them. After that point, Cruz will need close to 96% of the remaining delegates to win.

Two weeks after that is April 26th, or Super Tuesday 42, with 5 more states voting: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. At the very minimum, expect Trump to take Pennsylvania, where polls have shown him doing extremely well (as Vox Day noted above). That’s at least 71 more delegates off the table. In reality, expect him to take far more than that, at least in terms of delegates.

In short, by the morning of Wednesday, April 27th Ted Cruz will also need more than 100% of the remaining delegates in order to win the nomination. [Update 4/27/16: prediction proven true!] Barring a massive screw up on the part of the Trump campaign, or his actual death, there is no forestalling this outcome.

If Cruz’s quest became a mathematical impossibility with only a few days left in the campaign, it probably wouldn’t help Trump very much. But at that point, there will be seven weeks of campaigning left before the final votes. Expect several things to happen:

  • Cruz donors will begin dropping off as they see his campaign as impossible. Some will hang on, in a quixotic #NeverTrump attempt. Others will save their money for another day. Expect Trump himself to start quietly calling Cruz donors – not looking for their money for himself, but to convince them to cut off his rival.
  • Trump will be hitting Cruz hard every single day, pointing out that his campaign is mathematically impossible. Every. Single. Day.
  • The news media is also going to run the story. A lot. If there were only a few days of it, they’d try to bury it. With seven weeks, they won’t be able to. It’ll become a daily topic of the talking heads.
  • Trump – the master negotiator – will attempt to cut a deal. He will negotiate with both the GOP establishment and with Cruz himself, and take the best deal – if he thinks he needs to take a deal. My expectation? Cruz takes the VP slot in exchange for bowing out.

In a sane primary environment, Cruz would already be dropping out. He’d certainly drop out by April 27th. This is not a sane primary environment, so he might well carry through all the way to the convention. But given all of the above, even if he goes the distance we can expect his voter support to drop off hard. There are plenty of Cruz supporters who will never vote for Trump. Some of them will still show up for primaries on June 7th to vote for Cruz, even though it’s hopeless. Most will stay home. Whether Cruz has dropped out or not, expect Trump to carry enough of the June 7 delegates to handily carry him over the finish line.

If Cruz drops out before then, of course, Trump will get all of the remaining delegates by default. Or nearly all – Kasich might still squeeze out a few, but don’t bet on many. Then Trump will easily win his 1237 by a large (but not yuuge) margin. I see this scenario as increasingly likely for one very simple reason: Cruz is not an idiot. As a commenter over at Vox’s blog noted some time ago, if you’re going to extreme lengths to purge your enemies you purge them all at the same time. A brokered convention will not pick Cruz, and he knows it. Cruz’s best play right now is to negotiate the VP slot with Trump, help push him over the finish line, and set himself up for the next go round. On the flip side, Cruz’s ego is massive and his ambition is even bigger, and that might cloud his judgement (I think it already has, up to this point).

As you can see, I still fully expect Trump to hit 1237 without too much trouble. But it’s absolutely certain at this point that Cruz and Kasich can’t do it. Cruz’s only hope at this point is that the Sweet Meteor of Death finds Trump – and that was before Jeb Bush endorsed him this morning.

ON THE EXISTENCE OF GODS – Book Review

Published March 22, 2016 in Book Reviews , Religion - 0 Comments
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godsA few days ago I was fortunate enough to receive an advance review copy of On the Existence of Gods by Vox Day and Dominic Saltarelli. Full disclosure: I was given this e-book specifically for the purposes of reviewing it, and publisher and co-author Vox Day has also published one of my own previous works. On the flip side, I specifically requested a chance to review this one. Indeed, I jumped at the chance. As a philosophy major and a former atheist turned agnostic turned eventually Catholic, you might imagine that the topic has some interest for me. Saltarelli was an unknown to me, but I’ve followed Day’s blog for quite some time and I figured this work would at least be interesting.

I was not wrong.

The book is actually a reprinting of a debate between Day and Saltarelli that I believe was originally published on Day’s blog, although I can’t immediately track down the original posts. Somehow I missed it in its original run.

To begin with, Saltarelli is to be commended on several fronts. First, for agreeing to debate Vox Day. Regardless of your opinion on the controversial man, he’s a formidable debater. Second, having accepted the challenge, Saltarelli gave it an honest go. More than most of today’s atheists are willing or able to, he kept it to an honest intellectual argument. He refrained from “that’s just silly” dismissals, ad hominem attacks, attacking straw men, and other dishonest debate tactics. Mr. Day, for his part, held to the same high standard. The result makes the debate a strong one, and well worth the read.

But Saltarelli’s biggest achievement is one he must share with his co-author. I’ve read quite a bit out there on this topic, and I’ve participated in many informal versions of this debate – on both sides of it. This is the first thing that I’ve read in a very long time that actually had new, novel, and interesting arguments – and both authors achieved this, on both sides of the debate.

My singular complaint about the book is that the format of it virtually guarantees that the arguments on both sides will be underdeveloped. This does indeed turn out to be the case – in particular, Vox Day’s argument from the existence of evil is here represented almost criminally poorly, and I’d love to see it fleshed out in greater detail. I believe I can fill in many of the details, but I’d very much like to see his own logic here. In essence, he’s sold me on the argument but I feel that he needs to show his work.

Still, I find myself giving this book five stars purely for the astonishing achievement of presenting novel arguments. After two thousand years of debating the topic, that’s a remarkable achievement.

This book is unlikely to change any minds. But if you’re interested in the topic on an intellectual level, it’s worth the read.

Super Tuesday Post Mortem

Published March 2, 2016 in Politics - 0 Comments
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Everything is in except Alaska at this point. As I type this, Alaska is looking good for Trump – but only 7% of the vote is in:

Clinton

Clinton has all but shut down Sanders, defying my own prediction of a preference cascade. Looking at the turnout numbers and breaking down the polls, however, it’s easy to see why I made the mistake. The number one second choice candidate for Sanders voters is… Trump. And GOP turnout has been roughly three times higher than Democratic turnout. What we can learn from that is that the voters Bernie needs to push him over the top have crossed the aisle to vote for Trump.

For the record, I still predict an anti-Clinton preference cascade. Except now it looks like we’ll have to wait until November for it.

Sanders

Didn’t do what he needed to do tonight. What’s his play? He carries this all the way to the convention and racks up as many delegates as he can. He’ll have a formidable number and it’ll give him a lot of influence over the official party platform. Count on him to use that.

Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Somehow there are still people out there saying that the GOP race isn’t as over as the Democrat’s race. Trump didn’t hit his best case scenario tonight (running the table) but it was a pretty damn good night for him. By my math he’ll most likely have a quarter of the delegates he needs for the nomination by the time it all falls out. He also hit a magic number tonight: with 10 total wins (at least), he’s the first candidate to cross the magic threshold of 8 wins to allow his name to be officially thrown in the hat for the nomination. The remaining candidates have a good bit of catch-up to do if they want to reach that threshold as well.

Rubio

To put it bluntly, he’s finished. I’m not sure where he goes from here. Does the establishment force him to stay in to keep hitting Trump with everything they’ve got? Or do they hold back their money and save it for later? I’m betting on the latter. My money says his funding dries up this week and he’s out, and he doesn’t even make it long enough to take a beating in his home state of Florida on the 15th. The establishment will find other, more cost effective ways to attack Trump.

Cruz

A better than expected night, but still not where he needs to be. The upshot: this is now a two-man race. The downshot: don’t expect him to pick up all of Rubio’s voters, or even a majority. Especially if Rubio hangs around for a bit. My suspicion is that Cruz’s appeal is limited outside of the deeply conservative evangelical circles and that more of Rubio’s voters go to Trump than Cruz. A two man race doesn’t favor him the way he seems to think it should.

The Establishment

Their guy can’t win anything except the kind of caucus states where they can play every card they’ve got. My gut says the fold on Rubio and put all of their money on Hillary.

New York Times Finally Learns to Count

Published March 1, 2016 in Politics - 0 Comments
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The New York Times has finally figured out what I’ve been saying here for weeks and on Twitter for even longer: the delegate math is on Trump’s side.

“Trump has significant advantages, and that’s the way the system is designed,” said Joshua T. Putnam, a political science lecturer at the University of Georgia with an expertise in delegate selection. “It’s right in line with what the folks designing these rules wanted. It’s just not the candidate they preferred.”

This election was bought and paid for, lock stock and barrel, by the establishment for Jeb Bush. The reason I support Trump – the only reason I support him, but also the reason I’m 100% behind him – is because he’s the only candidate who was ever capable of destroying their corrupt game. He did it by hijacking their own process.

Unless today’s polls are completely wrong, tomorrow we’ll be waking up to headlines informing us that this game is all but over. Those headlines won’t be wrong.